Come On Over

August 15, 2011

This blog will stay up, but please visit me at lizpetry.com

New Website

August 14, 2011

I’m building a new website, so stay tuned …

Random Thoughts

August 13, 2011

It’s been one of those days all week (again), so here are some random thoughts.

So glad Philip Levine is the Poet Laureate. This country needs more voices for working people. Everyone should read “What Work Is.”

My neighbor who had wonderful, outrageous lawn signs all through the Bush administration has been quiet of late. He takes three pieces of board, paints them black and inks in his message in white. (The Smiley Face he painted on his copper beach after President Obama was elected has faded to invisibility). The signs driving north: “Make/mine/coffee.” Driving south: “The Democratic Party isn’t dead/but it’s beginning/to smell that way.” (Not sure I’ve gotten the division right on that one.)

The idiots in my neighborhood who wield firecrackers are still at it. Poor little Isis is going through some sort of senior withdrawal and was so scared the other night I thought she was going to hyperventilate to death. These are not sparklers and those pretty little candles. I could see the lights over the forty-foot trees in the neighbors’ backyard.

On the subject of Isis, she’s developed this habit of staring off into space. In the winter time she meditates on the steam radiator, with her nose barely a whisker’s length away. We can’t get our hands within six inches if the heat has just run. In the summer, she can stare at just about anything. If Larry or I disturb her, she jumps and then gives us the “who are you? what are you doing here?” look, which proceeds to “Where am I? Have I ever seen this place before?” We were convinced it was age – perhaps feline dementia – until we realized that the boxer next door, who is barely out of puppyhood, has that very same stare.

Quick update: The fate of the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry remains in limbo. A judge ruled a lawsuit filed by the town of Lyme couldn’t go forward because the closure wasn’t a certainty. (Not yet ripe in legal terms.) The closure threat will be rescinded if the unions ratify the governor’s revised contracts. Hope the ferry gets to keep on chugging.

Don’t Bother With Mezzo Grille

August 12, 2011

About once a month my friend Thelma and I have a relaxing lunch. We have a couple of favorites but decided to branch out today and went to Mezzo Grille in Middletown. I wrote a preview in July last year after Larry and I gave it a test run and decided to wait because it had just opened and things seemed a bit rough.

More than a year later, things have not improved. When Thelma and I arrived there was a table of six and two people in a booth. Two more people were waiting in front of us. An unknown but a substantial number were eating outside. The waitress came over pretty quickly and seated all of us. She brought  water and came back soon to ask what we wanted to drink. Thelma and I each ordered a glass of wine, and the waitress told us about the specials, which added to a huge menu of appetizers, pasta, burgers, and salads. We realized that she hadn’t mentioned a soup, although there was a special featuring a cup of soup and a small Mezzo salad that could be appealing.

Then nothing happened for quite some time. Eventually the table of two got food. Then the table of six got appetizers.

Some fifteen to twenty minutes later she brought our drinks and I asked if there was a soup of the day. She said, “Oh, I apologize,” the first of two? three? four? times. “It’s lobster bisque.” Needless to say, Thelma and I both ordered the special, Thelma’s without onion and both with dressing on the side. The waitress hesitated and said she didn’t know if that soup would be the same price but she would check. She disappeared again while the two other servers ran back and forth with food for the other tables. Meanwhile, groups of four and six people began emerging from the patio, just as a woman arrived with a huge try of party favors and big clump o’ balloons. Eventually our server emerged — the special would be a dollar more. We said fine.

Then we sat and sat. The lobster special arrived at the next table – 1 1/2 pounds served with a baked potato for $15. The price was great but it violates my rule two ways: 1) I don’t eat lobster “out” because I can’t jump into the shower afterward. 2) That’s way too much food at lunch unless one plans on not eating for the rest of the day. The sad thing is that those ladies were walking out the door just when our lunches showed up.

Then she brought the bisque and said she’d be right back with our salads, that she simply didn’t have enough hands. I’m thinking, aren’t you allowed to use a tray? And why would you assume we needed everything at once?

The bisque was actually a thinnish gumbo flavored by a heavy dollop of sherry. It had all the potential in the universe but was luke warm so the sherry overwhelmed everything else. Also I found a rather large piece of bay leaf stem, a no-no because it can cause choking.

The salad arrived – no onions, and with dressing on the top, although mercifully not drowned. I realized afterward that they’d probably put it on to disguise the fact that they were applying the pecan pieces with tweezers. The ensemble tasted OK, but I could have put together mixed greens, Mandarin oranges, and goat cheese myself. In fact I probably will, and add the red onion. The new experience was to be the citrus-pecan dressing and the flavor was simply not there.

The waitress returned after we’d finished about half the bisque to ask if everything was OK. I mentioned the soup temperature – and no, we didn’t want it reheated at this point. She came over after we finished eating but were still sipping wine and said, “Oh, you’re all set.” Did not clear plate one. When we did finish, we sat and sat. She was nowhere to be found. I heard, “I love my tables, I love my tables” at one point when she walked into the kitchen.

Finally I got up and asked the waiter if we could have our check. She came over and asked if everything was OK. We pointed out dressing and lack of onion problem. She apologized again and said they’ve stopped putting onions in the salad, and I’m wondering how we’re supposed to know that since they’re still on the menu. And then apologized again for the dressing.

To quote the NYTimes: Don’t bother.

Milk Dress

August 11, 2011

One night as I was getting ready to pile into bed, I tuned in to BBC World News, which if I don’t listen on line, I can only get before midnight in the kitchen, and only if the weather is right because it comes from an FM station miles from the house. Through the static and my fatigue I thought I heard something about “milk pants.” Can’t be, I thought, turned of the radio and went to bed. The next day I took a look (online)  and there they were, not just pants, but dresses, too.

A German biologist named Anke Domaske has mastered the art of turning sour milk into clothes. This video pretty much explains it all.

Things I really like about the concept:

  • She’s not depriving small children since the milk is “substandard.” She’s making use of something that would otherwise go in the trash.
  • It looked in the video like she was making yogurt with some sugar added. No word on whether the stuff is edible after it becomes cloth. I mean, if one misses a meal or two, one could theoretically take a bite of a sleeve or a cuff.
  • The styles look practical, something that actual human beings would wear.
  • The prices are good for special occasions at €150 and 200. (Today that’s $213 to $284. Tomorrow, who knows?)
  • Men’s fashions are in the works. Hang in there, guys.

One minor complaint: Wish there was more information than just that publicity stuff.

A note: It’s astounding that the British government thought it perfectly fine to use plastic bullets in Northern Ireland but has agonized over using them on their “own” people. I don’t know what to make of that. Surely they can’t still believe that the Irish aren’t human, but the refugees from their various former colonies are. I refuse to believe that all those complaints about human rights violations got through. In fact Cameron said today there were no such things as human rights.Also of interest is that I had no idea of the ethnicity of the victims and perpetrators of the violence until I looked at pictures. We’re so used in this country to hearing and reading “a black neighborhood” or “Latino/Hispanic neighborhood.” It’s obvious from pictures that most of the victims have their roots in Africa and the Caribbean, or in South Asia. I did hear one commentator describe the white rioters as “feral,” which of course elicited cries of outrage. The bottom line seems to be that this whole business is equal opportunity in terms of race but all about people at the bottom of the benighted (literally) Brit class structure voicing its outrage. I don’t foresee an easy resolution.

Who Do You Think You Are? Season 2

August 10, 2011

How did I miss the entire second season of Who Do You Think You Are when it first aired? I know – too much to do, etc. So I’m just catching up. Watching the segments on Vanessa Williams, Tim McGraw, and Rosie O’Donnell, I came away with a few impressions, some reinforced from the first season. The main one is that the series makes it look much too easy to locate information. Rosie O’Donnell says as much in her segment. Of course the actual search would put most every viewer to sleep. The other myth is that just anyone is going to be allowed physical contact with pretty much any old document, white gloves or no white gloves.

It was ironic that Ms. Williams’ traced her family back to 1842 and McGraw back to 1708. He also had connections to more than one famous person, besides his father. It’s nice that there is no moral ambiguity in Ms. Williams’ tree, at least none included. (See the reference to knaves, thieves, and whores at the beginning of my entry on the previous season.)  On the other hand,  McGraw had one ancestor who poached Indian land and another who was on welfare as soon as he arrived in the Western Hemisphere.

As I did last year I’ll do a complete review when I’ve watched the rest of the season. For now, I’d like to know why the producers chose stories in the female lines: Ms. Williams’ father’s mother’s people; McGraw’s grandfather’s mother’s family; Ms. O’Donnell’s mother’s roots. I’m sure the selections made the most interesting stories, but I’d like to know how the decisions were made. (DVD extra material?)

RIP, Matt Ketchum

August 9, 2011

I have to pay greater tribute to my friend Matt Ketchum, brother to my best friend Marcia, than I did with that brief post on Facebook. The family moved to Old Saybrook when Marcia and I were about twelve years old. She and her brothers provided something I lacked – siblings. Marcia will always be my sister. And Matt was the younger brother who was sometimes in the way but always offered amusement. (He was never quite as pesty as their youngest brother, Mark. But that’s another story for another day.) I loved Matt’s laugh and the fact that he could make his mother absolutely wild by belching “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” especially when he did it at the breakfast table! He would of course follow this antic with a laugh that got better as he grew up.

We all sort of lost track of each other after college, but then reconnected in the last twenty (?!) years. I managed two visits to Marcia in Denver in the early/mid 1990s and enjoyed seeing Matt both times. He also stopped by on a tour of New England when he was considering relocating to the East Coast. I remember that great laugh when he said the woman at the Durham post office was shocked that he was vacationing in that little tiny farm town!

The thing everyone needs to know about Matt is that he was amazingly talented as a woodworker. As someone who has been visually challenged since birth, (lack of depth perception, nearsightedness, keratoconus) Matt impressed me doubly, triply as one of those people who could see the shape inside the wood. He captured it perfectly every time. That sort of visual talent is an utter mystery to me. I can only appreciate folks who have it. That includes Marcia and Mark, too. A definite family trait.

I’m digging around to find Matthew Ketchum pieces that I own, which Marcia gave me as a present many years ago. I wrapped them carefully and put the package away – and of course can’t find it now. When I locate it, I’ll post a photo.

The last time I saw Matt, he was in his immaculate workroom, making wooden bumpers for a billiard table. One of the big moving companies had broken the plastic ones and was paying Matt to replace them with gorgeous (and durable) wood – mahogany if memory serves.

On a larger scale, he created furniture for the board room of a Denver bank. And he followed his passion, which was making reproductions of antiques. I remember he told me he loved “antiquing” new furniture by letting it sit under water off a pier in Long Island Sound to give it that patina of age. Needless to say the pieces he kept for himself made his house look like it should be on the cover of House and Garden.

So sad that such a talent is no longer with us. I’m still coming to terms with the fact of his death. RIP, Matt.

Smarter Than Who?

August 6, 2011

It was with great glee that I learned that people who use Firefox and other browsers are smarter than the average netizen. I suspect most of us signed on to the anti-IE because we grew tired of the crashes, hacks, and spam that the black hats inflict on Internet Explorer. I also think that it has to do with the Firefox’s benign open source attitude as opposed to IE’s direct-you-where-we-want-you-to go. What I find most amusing about the revelation that the study was a hoax: the people who bought into the “study” are being paid to investigate all things www. I like the analysis of SiliconFilter. The bottom line: Pretty much everyone is going to believe everything bad about the Evil Empire, or whatever it’s calling itself these days. Thanks, SiliconFilter!

Quick updates:

  • So glad to see justice was done in New Orleans. Hope that this is the beginning of a new era down there.
  •  Juxtaposition of the day (it’ll probably be gone soon, so I won’t link), Featured Photos on the WaPo leads with a birthday party photo of President and Mrs. Obama with Oprah. Link directly beneath: “Polish Woodstock, English punk rock, the Afghan museum’s restored statues and more.” I would say much, much more.
  • I have to keep doing those “What I Wore” segments. The ads show me Jimmy Choo, BlueFly, and all sorts of other stuff that I love to look at and will never buy.
  •  I’ve “liked” Aretha Franklin’s hat on Facebook because the idea that a hat has its own page is just too delicious.

Fifty Years Ago

August 5, 2011

One more stroll down memory lane, not quite as far back as the first one, but far enough back anyway. I found Saye and Seal It, (Vol. XXV, Number eight) among papers left by mother who as I already knew never threw away so much as a grocery list.

I’m not sure why the OSHS class of 1961 had to give space to a bunch of little kids on the pages of the “newspaper,” with hand-drawn illustrations that was published on a mimeo machine, but here we were. Among the “big” kids (not all class of ’61) were Pat Buzzi, Jean Childress, Don Ranelli, Mary Collins, and my cousin, Anna Bush. Principal I. William Belanich (anyone know what that “I” stood for?) lectured the graduating class: “The students who have consistently done their best for the past twelve years will continue to do so in the future. … Those who have taken short cuts, given less than their best, are not as sure about heir future.” Wow! No “You are all winners” in those days!

For all you O.S.H.S. fans out there, I’ll include the names of the “little kids” who had stories or poems in this issue. Let me know who you want to hear from. They all seem terribly derivative, so I have a feeling we were following some kind of template for ballads or whatever. I can’t transcribe them all, so the top five vote getters will win. If no one votes, I’ll consign it to the archives.

N. B. I’m rendering the names as typed, mistakes and all.

Judy Race, Robert VanZandt, Nancy Reynolds, Dawn Rochette, Barbara Olson, Richard Mazzerella, Michael Blinn, Derry Ryan, Pamela Ouelet, Candace Ransing, Mary Newcomb, Martha Conklin, Karen Marcolini, Patricia Fiorelli, Gerry Rowland, John Hall, Elizabeth Petry, Raleigh Phillips, Salli Knox, Anne Epply, Michael Naughton.

Quick Hit

August 4, 2011

Too much going on today. I had planned to write about one of three topics – poetry, milk pants, or AP’s grammar guru. Each one takes the sort of brain power I lack at the moment. So instead I’m linking to Pentagram, which is blowing its own horn about the signs inside the NYTimes that were featured in a new documentary. And blow the horn they should. I particularly like the signs for “privacy,” and for the  men’s and women’s rooms. Love the skipping guys! Also learned that the Times has a pantry. What do they use it for? Storing the ingredients before they cook up an investigative piece? Or the actual foodstuffs cooked by Bittman et al.? The foodies do cook, don’t they? As for the rest, I doubt the pope would be blessing those at the Times after the coverage of the priest sex abuse scandal, but oh, well. Pentagram has other goodies. Check out the handwritten letters project.


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